USAID Announces Haitian Diaspora Marketplace Initiative

By Bryan Schaaf on Friday, August 14, 2009.

While speaking at the Haitian Unity Diaspora Congress, Acting USAID Administrator Alonso Fulgham announced the launch of the Haitian Diaspora Marketplace, a partnership between USAID and Haiti's Sogebank Foundation that will provide $2 million in resources to support investments by members of the Diaspora with small and medium enterprises in Haiti.  Fulgham served from 1984-1986 as a Peace Corps volunteer in Port-au-Prince, where he worked with the Government and local groups on export promotion.  More on his remarks here and the Haitian Diaspora Marketplace Press Release is copied below.  

 

HDM - Haitian Diaspora Marketplace


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 11, 2009

 

Background:

USAID partnered with Fondation Sogebank to establish the Haitian Diaspora Marketplace (HDM), a two-year pilot program designed to encourage Haitians living abroad to contribute to Haiti's economic development by investing in Haiti. Diaspora entrepreneurs have unique human and financial expertise that is instrumental to the Government of Haiti's interest in advancing more productive public-private investments. This program allows for the creation and reinforcement of small businesses in key sectors, such as agriculture, tourism, assembly, and information and communication technology.

 

Objective:

The project's overall objective is to stimulate the Diaspora's direct investment in Haiti through a cost-sharing mechanism called the Haitian Diaspora Challenge Fund, which is aimed at promoting business opportunities, job creation and wealth generation via foreign and local business partnerships. This initiative will allow the Diaspora to more fully realize its potential for investing in productive business activities that will broaden and deepen recovery and creation of livelihood opportunities.

 

Activities:

The HDM will provide access to grant funding opportunities to Diaspora entrepreneurs and will also offer technical assistance to the businesses. The implementation phase of the grants component will include USAID contributions ranging from $50,000 to $100,000 U.S. dollars with a 2:1 minimum cost-sharing requirement. Grant applications must include business plans for sustainable activities that will be implemented with the participation of Haitian businesses. Competitors will also be required to provide detailed plans for sustainable business activities in Haiti. Business development and other technical support will be available to the grantees. As part of this initiative, credit guaranty programs with local Haitian banks will provide improved access to credit entrepreneurs from the Diaspora.

 

Funding:

USAID support: $ 2,000,000
FSGB support: $ 500,000
Other international donors, as well as private sector foundations or businesses, have been invited to contribute to the fund.

 

Life of Program:

Project will be implemented over a two year-period from July 2009 to July 2011

 

Implementing Mechanism and Partner:

The HDM will be implemented by Fondation Sogebank while partnering closely with Haitian public authorities such as the Ministry of Commerce, Agriculture and Tourism.

 

Anticipated Results Over Life of Program:

At the conclusion of this program, HDM will have supported the creation and/or reinforcement of approximately 20 local businesses, particularly in regions outside of Port-au-prince, in key productive sectors through the transfer of knowledge and capital by Haitians living abroad, This pilot project will be a stepping stone for not only Fondation Sogebank but also for other financial institutions to facilitate business investment by the Haitian Diaspora.

 

For more information about USAID and its programs, go to www.usaid.gov.


The American people, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, have provided economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide for nearly 50 years.

Haiti Seeks Better Relations with Florida Diaspora (12/17/2009)

Haiti seeks stability, better relations with Haitians in South Florida
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After years of upheaval and reversals, Haiti is making significant progress: its streets safer, politics more stable and business growing. The Caribbean nation is expected to post one of the highest economic growth rates in the Americas this year after back-to-back hurricanes in 2008.
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Even the Oct. 30 ouster of its prime minister could not stop positive momentum. Within two weeks, a new leader took office, continuing the same pro-growth policies stoking support from investors, donors and former U.S. President Bill Clinton, U.N. special envoy to Haiti.
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The Sun Sentinel spoke with new Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive during his visit this month to the Miami Conference on the Caribbean.
As the former minister of planning and external cooperation, the 51-year-old Bellerive speaks four languages: Creole, French, Spanish and English. He grew up in Europe and returned to Haiti as an adult in 1986. An economist, he has since served in many administrations in his country of 9 million people, the hemisphere's poorest. Bellerive helped craft the 2006 national development plan that is now inspiring confidence in Haiti.
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What follows is an edited version of the interview:
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Q: How do you reassure the international community that a change in prime ministers does not derail good news about Haiti and the three years of political stability it has enjoyed?
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A. I was a member of the (former) government, and I was very involved trying to convince investors that Haiti was open for business, that Haiti was willing to work with national and international investors, and I'm going to continue to do that. It's the same priorities that we have. It will be my main mission to ensure that the unity that we have between the different sectors towards progress, growth and development is kept.
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Q. What can you do as the new prime minister to ensure that elections in November won't blow up and stop the positive momentum?
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A. Traditionally, elections in Haiti are a shaky period, but we are growing. There is a lot of dialogue and discussions with different parties and the government about what are the risks and outcomes. There is a lot at stake, especially the constitutional reforms that a lot of people want. If we don't make those reforms in a very tight calendar, we will have to wait five years again to even think about changing the Constitution.
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Q. And there's so much interest in Constitutional reforms it will keep the elections on track?
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A. Yes, because everyone has something they want to change. Dual citizenship is a big issue in the diaspora. The Constitution is also an impediment to investment. It says a foreigner can't have more than one house in Haiti. Can you imagine someone building hotels or timeshares if they cannot have more than one property? And there are other issues. I don't believe anybody will take the risk to be responsible for not changing the Constitution.
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Q. The relationship with Washington is very good now, especially with Clinton as U.N. special envoy. What can Miami and South Florida do now for Haiti?
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A. South Florida is the main door for Haitians toward the exterior. It's where we have a big diaspora. It's 1 hour and a half from Haiti. There is a tight relation, but we have to organize it better. The Haitian community should be more important, when you see the population and capacities they represent in Miami. They should be -- not like Cubans perhaps -- but more powerful, and I believe it should be a role of the government to help them organize. So, we are interested to increase relations with South Florida – both with officials as well as the Haitian community.
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Q. You met with people from the World Trade Center in Miami, and they are interested in setting up a trade center in Haiti.
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A. It's very interesting. It will help us create jobs in Haiti. My main concern today is to create jobs for people to assume their responsibility toward their children, toward education, health, housing, and I'm clear that has to come through private investment.
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Q. Has there been much job creation in the past three years?
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A. Not as much as we were hoping. The HOPE legislation (promoting clothing sales to the United States) helped create some jobs. We have Korean investment, and nationals are trying to invest. But the deficit was so big. You really don't feel the difference when you have 4 to 5 million people who are not working, and you have 4, 000 or 5,000 jobs created in one year. But those jobs create momentum.
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Q. What made the difference in recent years that there's so much momentum. Is there one thing: the U.N. peacekeepers, Clinton, the government of President Rene Preval?
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A. One thing is that we came as a government with a plan to improve the life of Haitians. It was the first time that we did not have a patchwork of little programs coming from USAID, Canadians, Europeans, French and everyone else trying to help -- with no synergy to change the perspective. We presented the strategy in 2006 for the next three years. They said it was too general. So, we came back to Washington with specifics: the cost of the project, where we want to do it and how we want to do it. And I believe it was the new momentum.
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We had our plan pre-validated, meaning that we agreed not only on what you are going to do, but also what we would do on the Haitian part. So, we'd say, " I need you to finance new roads, but I understand that you want me to prove that I will find the money to maintain those roads, and here is what I am going to do to improve the fiscal revenue." Or, "We need more electrical capacity. I understand that you are tired of financing electricity when people are paying less than what it costs. So, we are going to agree – knowing the political and social cost – to raise the price of electricity. " It was like a deal: Help me, and I'm going to have more transparency and do that, that and that.
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Q. Why hadn't that happened before, and why did it happen then?
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A. There's a big political cost involved. For doing things like raising electricity rates, the first prime minister was changed. Perhaps other governments had only political priorities, not economic priorities.
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Because it's not easy. When you have an administration that is functioning for 40 or 50 years in one way, you don't change those practices in one night. And you're in a country in which 80 percent of what you need is financed by international partners.
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Q. Can you understand it kind of as an evolution: You throw out the dictators. You bring in what you might call populists, and finally, you settle on a technocratic government?
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A. A technocratic government is a cold word. I am a man of passion, who loves my country, who perhaps has the experience to say "I'm not going to do that, because it is not going to work." I have to sit with my partners to discuss a plan. I'm not going to impose a plan, because I'm not a dictator.
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It's easy to say it was a dictator, then populist and technocrat. But it is not so easy. There is a mix all the time. You have marvelous technocrats during (the dictatorships of) Duvalier and the years after. Most laws we are using in Haiti now were written in the Duvalier period.
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Before, every government coming in would throw out the water with the baby in it. Now, we look what was good before and improve on that. I am not in opposition to the former government. I am continuing and taking advantage of all good things they did.
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But democracy is at risk in Haiti if investments are not coming fast. People have to believe in democracy, and to believe, democracy has to show that it works. And it works when you get a salary, when you have insurance, when you have education, when you have a house. It's not that you go to the ballot every five years. People want to see change in their lives. And that's happening too slowly.
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Copyright © 2009, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

VOA on Haitian Diaspora Marketplace (8/23/2009)

Millions of Haitians living abroad in many countries, including the United States now have a unique opportunity to invest in Haiti's future. The United States Agency for International Development [USAID] is partnering with Fondation Sogebank, a philanthropic institution of Haiti's largest commercial bank, to establish the Haitian Diaspora Marketplace.
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The Haitian Diaspora Marketplace is a 2-year pilot program designed to encourage Haitians living abroad to contribute to Haiti's economic development through direct investment in productive business activities. Diaspora entrepreneurs have a special human and financial expertise that can be of great value to the government of Haiti in advancing more productive public-private investments. The program encourages the creation and growth of small businesses in key sectors, such agriculture, tourism, and information and communication technology.
.
The Haitian Diaspora Marketplace will provide access to grant funding to Diaspora entrepreneurs and will also offer technical assistance to the businesses. The implementation phase of the grants will include USAID contributions ranging from $50,000 to $100,000 with a 2 to 1 minimum cost-sharing requirement.
.
Grant applications must include business plans for sustainable activities that will be implemented with the participation of Haitian businesses. Competitors for the funding will also be required to provide detailed plans for sustainable business activities in Haiti. As part of this initiative, credit guaranty programs with local Haitian banks will provide improved access to credit entrepreneurs from the Diaspora. USAID will provide $200,000,000 in support for the program.
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Acting USAID Administrator Alonzo Fulgham spoke to the second annual Haitian Diaspora Unity Congress in Miami Beach, Florida this month. He noted that the U.S. will provide over $300,000,000 in assistance to directly support national development priorities identified by the government of Haiti. And he called on the Haitian Diaspora to do its share.
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"We want to work with you – our partners in the Haitian Diaspora – to work faster, harder, and smarter to advance sustainable development in Haiti," he said. Acting Administrator Fulgham urged the Diaspora to continue to let Haitian officials at the local and national levels know that Haiti needs stable and capable government institutions. Local non-governmental organizations need the Diaspora's help in the fight against corruption, he said. And most important, said Acting Administrator Fulgham, Haiti needs the expertise and experience of the Diaspora.
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"The United States," said Acting Administrator Fulgham, "looks forward to working with the Haitian Diaspora to bring meaningful economic development to Haiti."

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